As one of its more intriguing routines, the Central Intelligence Agency compiles psychological profiles on world leaders so that they might be better understood and anticipated. In this spirit, we have prevailed upon two eminent psychoanalysts to conduct a searching examination of Jimmy Carter, the man behind the image.
They are obliged, like their CIA counterparts, to depend upon the public record, particularly Carter's own statements about his private life and innermost feelings.
Both agree that the president is a driving, disciplined leader, deeply private, who suffers inwardly from the political shellfire. They see him as an intense person, firm in his faith, committed to ideals, determined to succeed.
Explains the distinguished psychoanalyst and author Dr. Ted Saretsky of New York: "President Carter's concept of leadership and authority combine the need to have clearly defined goals, to be benevolent in the exercise of power, but ultimately to be relentless, decisive and singleminded in meeting challenges."
The other expert, a Washington psychiatrist who prefers anonymity, adds this: "Carter appears to have a compulsion to excel, a compulsion to have his own way, a compulsion to climb mountains because they are there."
He has endured periods of torment when he has fallen short of his expectations. Suggests Saretsky: "The president seems to undergo periods of intense contemplation, searches for wisdom and inner strength, in the meantime suffering from temporary despair and disillusionment. . . .
"He seems to emerge from these bouts of self-doubt with an almost compensatory aggressive tone. At these times, his humility and blame-taking barely conceal an attitude that the outside world has disappointed him, failed to meet up with his expectations and must make greater sacrifices and try harder."
A serious setback, adds the Washington psychiatrist, is likely to cause Carter "anguish inner suffering." His most shattering setback came in 1966 when he was defeated for governor of Georgia. As he has recalled the experience in an interview, "I considered myself to have failed in a major effort for the first time. I had always been pretty successful in my life , . . . When I did succeed, I didn't get much pleasure out of it. When I failed, I was overly concerned about failure."
He emphasized: "Inever did break down or weep or go into an emotional state." Instead, he turned to religion after a long talk with his evangelist-sister, Ruth Carter Stapleton.
As president, he studies the scriptures and prays for divine guidance several times daily. The Washington psychiatrist suggests that Carter "may be inclined to regard the ideas that come from his deep contemplation as answer to his prayers."
This expert also sees Carter as "a loner even when he is surrounded by people, an introvert who is comfortable only in the company of intimates."
From the president's statements about his childhood, Saretsky draws these conclusions: "President Carter has indicated that his father was a very strict, authoritarian man who demanded absolute respect, obedience and deference. The president's mother is characterized as a distant, demanding woman, someone who is not inclined to a close personal relationship.
"President Carter seems to have internalized the positive aspects of both his parents -- competence, the striving for excellence, faith, sincerity and personal integrity. At the same time, the dogmatic, controlling climate may have caused him to submerge his private reservations and challenges to parental authority, which are natural human reactions, in the interest of propriety, respect and family loyalty.
"Unlike his brother Billy, Jimmy Carter seems to have conformed too closely with what was expected of him. The personal crises and struggles that President Carter has undergone, which to the public may seem like long periods of passivity, paralysis and indecision, can be construed as an exhausting attempt to overcome inner doubts stemming from early childhood . . . .
"The president's preoccupation with explaining himself, proving his sincerity and emphasizing and reemphasizing his idealism sometimes can appear like tortured attempts to apologize for being simply human. When he has cleansed himself of his doubts, ambivalence and critical self-appraisals, he seems to mobilize sources of energy which inspire him to spurts of evangelistic zealousness,"
Concludes the psychoanalyst: "An examination of President Carter's interview material reveals a sincere, thoughtful, highly principled man . . . who trusts that honesty, idealism, knowledge and courage will ultimately prevail over short-sighted unpopularity and dissension."